§ 15. Ms Estelle Morris
To ask the President of the Board of Trade what measures his Department is taking to encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering-based and technology-based industries.
§ Mr. Page
My Department promotes a number of national and regional schemes to encourage women, as well as men, to pursue careers in engineering-based and technology-based industries. Some, such as Insight, Women Into Science and Engineering and Women Into Information Technology, are aimed specifically at girls and women.
§ Ms Morris
The Minister's answer does not address the question with the urgency that it deserves. Is he aware that, in the last decade, although the number of women gaining engineering degrees has doubled to 15 per cent., the number of chartered engineers who are women has remained at 1 per cent? What action will his Department take to ensure that the skills of women graduating in engineering are not lost to British industry, and that women are encouraged to seek professional engineering status?
§ Mr. Page
I accept that there is a need to change the perception of the engineering industry, and to get rid of the "oily rag" image. That is why the Government are 333 promoting 50-odd schemes around the country in an attempt to bring about a greater knowledge of engineering, and in particular the change in attitudes that is at the core of advancement. The Insight Programme, which is being run by the Engineering Training Authority, gives some 500 lower-sixth-form girls a week in universities, and is being supported by British firms.
§ Mr. Thurnham
I add my warm congratulations to my hon. Friend. Does he agree that there is considerable untapped potential for women in engineering? Is he aware that, when I came to the House, my wife took over the running of the engineering business that I started in 1972 and that is now successfully employing more than 500 people?
§ Mr. Page
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind 'words. As the House knows, some 45 per cent. of the work force is made up by women, and it is only right that they should take their proper place in the professions. My hon. Friend may take comfort from the fact that the proportion of women in management and professional occupations has risen from 25 per cent. in 1984 to some 30 per cent. in 1993.